The contingent of the Ku Klux Klan that has applied to hold a July rally in Charlottesville is reportedly led by an FBI informant who has been charged in the stabbing of another Klan member.
In December, authorities in North Carolina arrested Chris Barker, the self-identified leader, or “imperial wizard,” of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, based in Pelham, North Carolina. That same group has applied to hold a rally on the steps of the Charlottesville Circuit Court on July 8, as first reported by The Daily Progress on Monday.
The rally, which it is estimated will have 100 attendees, has been denounced by city officials and criticized by both left- and right-wing groups.
According to The News & Observer in Raleigh, Barker was one of two men charged in the assault of Richard Dillon, an Indiana man and Klan member who stumbled into the Caswell County Sheriff’s Office with multiple stab wounds to the upper chest on Dec. 3, following a Klan meeting at Barker’s Yanceyville, North Carolina, home.
Dillon told officers that during the meeting, he’d gotten into a fight with Barker and William Ernest Hagen, a California-based Klan leader. Barker’s arrest came just before a Klan parade in Roxboro, North Carolina, billed as a celebration of Donald Trump’s presidential victory; Hagen’s came immediately after the parade.
Deputies charged Hagen with felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, while Barker was charged with felony aiding and abetting assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Barker, who has claimed he was not involved in the fight, was released on a $75,000 bond while his case is pending, The News & Observer reported.
Barker also made headlines in 2015 when it was revealed that he’d informed on another Klan member to the FBI. According to the Times Union in Albany, New York, Barker wore a wire and secretly recorded a conversation with Glendon Scott Crawford, a Klan member who was trying to gain support for his “mobile death ray,” which he’d hoped to use on Muslims.
The recording was played during the second day of Crawford’s trial for terrorism-related charges in federal court; Crawford was ultimately found guilty and given a 30-year sentence last December.
Barker’s checkered history was noted by Jason Kessler, the right-wing blogger and founder of Unity and Security for America. Six days after Barker’s Klan group submitted its application, Kessler submitted his own application for an assembly in Lee Park, set to run from 12 to 5 p.m. Aug. 12.
In an email, Kessler called Barker “an FBI informant and multiple felon” and claimed that he was “being paid by left-wing groups to discredit legitimate conservatives.”
“Someone is trying to discredit my rally by bringing in this jackass,” Kessler wrote.
Kessler was one of more than 100 people who gathered in Lee Park on May 13 for a torch-lit rally led by white nationalist Richard Spencer and others in response to the city’s decision to rename the park and remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee. That rally was condemned by city officials, including Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, who said the event as “either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK.”
Spencer told The Washington Post that he did not plan to attend the July 8 rally in a text message and said that the "KKK is not my scene."
When asked about July’s planned KKK rally, Signer asked city residents to refrain from engaging with the “ridiculous sideshow.”
In what feels like being transported to another time in history, a Ku Klux Klan group is planning to demonstrate at the Charlottesville courthouse in response to attention over the city's Confederate statues controversy and a torch-light rally held in May.
“This rump, out-of-state arm of a totally discredited organization will succeed in their aim of division and publicity only if folks take their putrid bait,” Signer said in an email. “I encourage everyone in C’ville to ignore this ridiculous sideshow and to focus instead on celebrating the values of diversity and tolerance that make us a World-Class City.”
In response to the May 13 rally, hundreds of area citizens assembled in Lee Park the following night for a candlelit counter-protest led by groups such as Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville. While largely peaceful, three people were arrested in the final minutes of the event, including Kessler, who was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
City Councilor Wes Bellamy, who spoke at the counter-protest, said in a text message that it was “absolutely imperative that we don’t stoop to the levels of hate groups like the KKK.”
“People are upset, and understandably so. I too am infuriated,” he said. “But I also know they want us to fall for their trick of getting angry, acting with pure emotion and getting locked up while they stand to the side and watch us while saying they’re having a ‘peaceful protest.’”
When asked about the planned Klan rally, Pam Starsia of SURJ said that several community organizations are discussing options for a protest.
“I don’t expect anyone to sit on the sidelines for this,” Starsia said. “Everyone is obviously angry that the Klan feels comfortable coming to Charlottesville like this.”
When asked about the likelihood of the Klan’s permit application being approved, city spokeswoman Miriam Dickler said that the permitting process mostly dealt with logistical issues, and less with “the individuals or the organization or the content of the speech.”
She added that the potential for protests would be taken into account by the city. A spokesman for city police further stated that the department was aware of the planned rally and “has been working on plans to ensure the safety of everyone present at the event.”
If the rally takes place, it will be the first significant sighting of the KKK in Central Virginia since 2014, when a branch of the Klan appeared in Waynesboro and Staunton to cover vehicles and line doorways with pamphlets calling for people to “Save Our Land [and] Join The Klan.” The material gave a North Carolina phone number and an address in Pelham, North Carolina.